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How RIM Could Save Itself

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RIM just reported earnings that were even more miserable than expected. We've already said why the company is cooked. But is there any way it can be salvaged? Well, just maybe there is.


You ready, RIM? It's time we had a talk.

Stop Leaning on Enterprise

You know who made BlackBerry popular? Companies, who valued the handsets' security and their keyboards and their messaging systems in a pre- and nascent-smartphone world. Then consumers started joining in on the fun, because employees and consumers are often the same people! But consumers have abandoned ship at an alarming rate, and even companies are realizing that if they just let their employees use their own smartphones for work they'll be off the hook for massive annual hardware buys and—more crucially—dozens/hundreds/thousands of data plans.


You know who else leaned on enterprise? Windows Mobile. And from that heaping trainwreck arose Windows Phone, one of the most promising developments in mobile in years. So get the consumers back, RIM. They're going to be the ones who lift you up.

It's not just phones, either. The BlackBerry PlayBook wanted so desperately to be the definitive enterprise tablet, but that's kind of like being the definitive Cracker Barrel sommelier; the two just don't go together. Not right now, anyway. Either give the PlayBook some consumer chops or let it die a graceful death.

Bring in New Management

Look, all respect to Mike Lazaridis for being one of a handful of tech CEOs left with serious engineering chops. That doesn't mean he's a good CEO.


And even if he and co-CEO Jim Balsillie had been doing everything right and just run up against some sheer dumb luck, there comes a time when you need a fresh set of eyes and brains on the problem. For RIM—which has been doing many things wrong!—that time was probably sometime in the middle of the BlackBerry 7 development process.

If anything, a change would help morale, which was already demostrably in the gutter even before those recently announced layoffs.


Android Is for Quitters

BlackBerry App World is like the sad broken-down amusement park your dad takes you to because when he was a kid it was the only place that had a log flume. You got behind with devs. You got beat. Get them back. Microsoft's doing it—slowly, surely—with Windows Phone, and you can too. It's going to take money, sure, but considering how many wasted investments you've been willing to make recently you might as well splurge on something useful.


You've got time before QNX makes its phone debut. Use that time to line up as many major devs as you can. Don't just make BlackBerry a QWERTY storefront for Android apps. We have that already. It's called Droid.

Make Sure QNX Works Right

And honestly, there's no need to hit the Android panic button. You still shipped 10.6 million BlackBerries last quarter (although who can say how many you sold). Your QNX-based phones aren't going to be a game-changer, but they could get you back in the game, you know? But not if you rush it, and definitely not if you push it out without BES/BIS email/calendar support. That's like releasing a Twinkie with no gooey filling.


BlackBerry 7 is okay. It's fine. It's not great. We all know that. And you basically acknowledged on your earnings call today that it's a stopgap until QNX gets here. But it's a good enough stopgap that you can run with it for as long as you need to. You also just said that a year from now BlackBerry 7 would still represent the majority of your sales. Works for me! As long as QNX eventually gets a major splash.


You're going to tell us more about QNX plans in October, and we can wait until then. And I'll take you at your word today that you're waiting until everything's perfect to release it. Then again, you seem to think you did that with Torch, which, nope!


Quit It With That BBM Music Crap

Seriously, what are you thinking? Did this cost you any money? Because you wasted all that money.


Accentuate the Positive

You know what, RIM? We like you. You're the underdog. You make some handsome hardware, the best QWERTY mobile keyboard out there. And there's no reason mobile shouldn't be a four-horse race. That benefits competition, which benefits everybody. Your phones are secure, they're reliable, they're reasonably priced. All that's great.


And hey, you're still making lots of money! Sure, you're not making it as fast as you used to, but $4 billion of revenue is a lot of Curves. And there was still $329 million of net income in there which, even though it's less than half the profits of last year's analogous quarter, is still enough to fund some solid R&D.

So you know what? Be RIM. Make BlackBerries. Don't make huge investments in shoddy tablets no one asked for, don't push out half-baked software no one likes, don't decide months too late to manufacture a music service no one needs. People don't go to the circus for the sideshow, they go to see the elephants. So give us some freaking elephants, already.


There's hope, RIM. A tiny little sliver of hope that you can turn this thing around and be, well, let's not say the company you once were. Let's say you could turn this thing around and survive. I certainly hope you do. But it's going to take whole lot more than you've been showing us.